July 24, 2012
By Policy and Research Officer, Ryan Wiggins
To say the historical relationship between Christian churches and Australia’s Indigenous peoples has not been a wholly positive one would be an understatement. Despite assurances that at the time the Church believed it was acting in the best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it’s clear they played an instrumental role in administering some of the most damaging elements of the colonisation process.
In more recent times though, self-reflection and a commitment to social justice principles, two central tenets of Christian faith, have motivated atonement and mobolised action. Over the past few decades there has been a concerted effort by Christian communities to fight for Indigenous human rights—and become leaders in spreading the reconciliation message.
In the lead up to the 1967 referendum Christian churches in Australia, using their broad sphere of influence to affect a ‘Yes Vote’, were one of the leading voices in support of the referendum. From the mid-1990s, Christian churches all over Australia have made official statements of apology, sorrow and regret for their part in the injustices which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced, particularly the Stolen Generation.
In this spirit, on 14 June 2012 at the Canberra Baptist Church, two of the Christian community’s biggest voices on social justice for Indigenous Australians called on the church and its communities to support Reconciliation Australia and You Me Unity in their campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s Constitution.
People from right across the Canberra region braved the winter cold to hear World Vision Australia CEO, Reverend Tim Costello and the first female Aboriginal Archdeacon of the Anglican Church in Australia, Karen Kime declare that the work of the Christian community is not over in advocating and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people.
Both Archdeacon Kime and Reverend Costello spoke about the need to keep working to repair relationships and to keep the conversation going. Now is the time to walk side by side on our way to a better future where all Australians no matter their race, are officially recognised as being equal—and where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, histories and languages are appropriately recognised in our founding document, the Constitution.
To support the campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, or to learn more, go to http://www.youmeunity.org.au/